Story Class 1.4 – How does a character prepare for adventure?

The second stage of a journey is the preparation stage, usually riddled with debate and doubt. Once a character receives a call to adventure there are two kinds of resistance that fuels this debate:

  1. A resistance to accept the challenge and risk that the adventure is offering.
  2. A resistance to the training and groundwork that may be needed to minimise the risks.

Some heroes like Jonah try to run away from the call, others, like Little Red Riding Hood is over eager and resists the warnings of their mentors and the necessary precautions or training that is needed.

Either way, the second part of any story revolves around a debate between the fears and the desires of the character.

For some the desire is so strong they want to act immediately and throw caution to the wind. For others the fear is overwhelming and they refuse to accept the challenge and attempt to run away from it.

In both cases a mentor is needed to help the hero either find the courage to step up, or find the patience to prepare adequately for the risk. Very often in this meeting with the mentor, the latter provides a magical weapon or secret power that will aid the hero in his or her journey. Examples are Luke Skywalker’s light saver, Dorothy’s red shoes in the Wizard of Oz or Snow White’s beauty.

Sometimes the mentor simply offers sound advice that echoes in the mind and heart of the hero. “Do not stray from the path”, Little Red’s mother warned. “You are the one”, echoed the words in Neo’s head (The Matrix) and “May the force be with you” resounds Obi One’s words to Skywalker – lucky bloke, he got a weapon and a phrase.

In our story class this week the king had promised that anyone who is instrumental in the return of the Duke Tamuz from the underworld would receive their heart’s desire. Now each character had to discover what their heart’s desire was and weigh it up against their fear of the underworld. Each had to find a symbol one for their worst fear and one for their greatest wish.  The symbols were a way of concretising the internal debate.

Through structured dialogue characters helped each other to further manifest their main motivations for going or staying.

Then, as the characters met at the gate to the underworld some of the debate became verbalised in conversations with one another…

Homework for the coming week: Please put the process of debate into your story. You can use the following template:

The king’s offer of reward echoed through the town of Bellashrene: “Anyone who is instrumental in the return of the Duke Tamuz from the underworld would receive their heart’s desire. All interested in accepting the challenge must meet at the gate at twilight.”

But… (character has doubts about the underworld)

Yet…(character is motivated by desire)

Because of this…(character has an encounter with a mentor that helps to sort out issues)

Note: You may choose to do this in any way you like. Perhaps she remembers a scene with her mother when she was young/ maybe he visits a spiritual guide/ maybe one of the conversations with another character helped. Use the insights you gained from the listening exercise to help you.

And so…(they commit to their call)

Admittedly this is a little formulaic. If your character’s story breaks the formula it is totally ok. The template is just there to spark the flow. Once it is there, trust the flow and not the template. Only when you are done writing, check that the elements of preparation are all there:

  • Fear
  • Desire
  • Mentor
  • magic item/empowering phrase.
  • Resolve/decision to either go or stay

I look forward to the unfolding adventure next week…

If you read this and are not part of the class, or do not understand how we work, I sympathise. My story class blogs are aimed at clarifying some of the theoretical concepts and structures for the participants. We often play and experience so much in class that we do not get around to the underlying theory. If you are interested in the practical methods, the best I can do is to invite you to subscribe to our use letter or join one of our workshops. Click here to subscribe to our quarterly useletterand workshop updates in your area.

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